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Cappadocia: Living in Caves and Underground

I love Cappadocia.  I think I could move there for a while. At least until the summer heat.

Especially if I could eat at the Old Greek House every night.  I wonder if the family would adopt me so I could eat there even when they’re closed.

Cappadocia Estates

We stayed in the Cappadocia Estates hotel.  The rooms are built into the side of a mountain and are essentially caves.  Kevin thought they were going to be actual caves and we would be given a blanket while we slept on the ground.  Luckily, it was a very modern hotel with carved stone walls.  I think all caves should have toilets and pillow top beds.

We had apple tea every morning with breakfast.  Everywhere we went, we were served apple tea.  We went into an expensive shop at the bazaar, we were offered apple tea.  At the carpet shop in Ephesus.  During the fashion show at the leather store.  While Kevin got a Turkish shave.  If we sat down, we were offered apple tea.  (We got so addicted, we brought a couple boxes back.)

Balloon Ride at Dawn

The first morning, we got up before dawn and drove to Royal Balloons.  They served us breakfast and then we got into a van to drive to the lift off location.  12 others were in our basket with us.  Our pilot had been flying balloons for 22 years.  I felt very safe with him and it was a smooth ride.  I enjoyed every minute of it until I looked over the basket and anxiety kicked in.  Luckily the basket had handles.

Cappadocia hot air balloon season

22 years ago, there were 4 balloons in the sky. Now there can be up to 150.

Hot Air Balloon Season

I’ve never been on a hot air balloon ride before. The whole thing was fascinating.

The balloon let us see all of Cappadocia and we went down into a valley to get a closer look at apricot trees and caves.  It was a gorgeous morning and due to jet lag, waking up at 4:30am wasn’t that hard at all.

A crew follows the balloon on the ground to let the pilot know if there is anything above us.  They also help him land on a trailer.  After the ride, they served champagne and orange juice and gave each of us a medal.

I love medals.


After our balloon ride, we went back to our hotel to have another breakfast and then to start a walking tour with Mert.  I wish I had taken more notes.  We walked around the whole town even though I still had jet lag.  The rest of the family had adjusted but my body refused.  While we were learning about the history of the town, I actually fell asleep standing up.  I never believed you could really do this.  I was wrong.

Mert wrapped Seth’s head properly and added sunglasses to balance out the floral print. Notice the dog just wandering on the side.

All over Turkey, there are wild cats and dogs that aren’t truly wild.  No one owns them but different stores feed them and make sure they’re taken care of.  A lot of them are tagged so the government can make sure they’re okay. They generally wander around freely.

I liked them better than the horses and cows that wandered randomly in Fiji.  At least they ran out of the street when cars approached, unlike the horses of Fiji.  I like this quality in an untamed animal.

Underground City

We took a tour of an underground city while we were here.  There are five levels of rooms underground.  Hundreds of years ago, the people would move underground if there was too much snow and freezing weather or if enemies came.  They didn’t stay underground for longer than they had to.  The top level had stables people would keep their animals in year round and they made wine on different levels throughout the year, but they didn’t live underground unless necessary.

There were four pillars to support the caves and rooms weren’t carved out directly on top of each other.  If there was a room on level one, another room wouldn’t be under it until level three.  I don’t know how they were able to figure out all of the design needed to go into this underground village.  They would’ve needed to know how big they were going to build it from the beginning even though it took decades to finish.  The round stone doors were made of different, stronger stones than the walls and therefore were imported in from the surrounding area.  The caves have withstood hundreds of years of earthquakes.  It’s simply mind-boggling to think of what people could do hundreds of years ago.

Underground City

The hole in the stone is for spears. If an enemy came too close, the people in the cave could stab them.

We were the only people in the caves.  A couple of years ago, Mert was with a group that had to wait an hour to go through a passageway to get out there were so many tours at that time.  Although the claustrophobic side of me was glad we were the only ones there, it was depressing to think how many people are staying away from this amazing country.

Fairy Chimneys and Open Air Museum

There is a valley in Cappadocia that looked like Goblin Valley in Utah, except it has caves people lived in.  We hiked around the valley and walked to a top of a hill where a modeling photoshoot was taking place next to a wedding photoshoot.

Three Sister Fairy Chimneys

It’s easy to see why people choose here for photo shoots.

We went on a hike around the area.  We thought we would have to turn back, but a farmer told Mert we could keep going and hit the road.  Luckily, our bus driver found us hitching our way back into town.  It may have had something to do with Mert calling him and telling him to come get us; hard to know.

They all planned to match today.

We also toured the Goreme Open Air Museum.  It is the location of the first monastery organized by Saint Basil of Caesarea.  Caves carved out of the hills were turned into churches with the walls and ceilings intricately painted.  Families would sponsor a chapel to be built in their honor.  In other caves, there would be carved tables where dozens of monks would sit and eat.  All of this was taking place at the time of the ecumenical councils.

People wanted unity of ideas at this time.  I’m fascinated by history and how people unify at different times for different reasons.  There were so many ideas and stories about Christ and Divinity and people wanted more solid beliefs.  This did lead to the break between the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches, but two was still a smaller number of belief systems than there had been before.

Cappadocia is simply gorgeous

A Personal Lesson

I’ve mentioned previously how people asked if we were nervous about the trip.  We honestly weren’t, but at the same time I erred on the cautious side.  I bought dark and neutral colored coats and tennis shoes for us.  I have a bright red packable coat I wore all over Ireland, but this time I wanted to look more European than American.  The kids brought clothes that were more muted according to my instructions.  I wanted to the kids to blend in; no bright colors America is known for.

Then I went to Goreme and was surrounded by brightly clothed people from China.  I would argue the clothes I saw were brighter and louder than what the average American would wear.  There was definitely more animal print than I’ve seen on a tour with Americans.

Sometimes it’s hard to know what to prepare for

Once I saw this, I wondered if I’d gone a little overboard.  Granted I bought the kids tennis shoes in bigger sizes so they will last at least 6 months until the next growth spurt.  And the coats were packable so they could stuff into backpacks or purses if the weather got too warm so they had dual purpose as well.  I didn’t buy anything that couldn’t be used for the next year, but I wonder if I could’ve let the kids get whatever color they wanted instead of dark blue and grey.

Actually, I didn’t need to do anything special for this trip except bring head coverings for me and Katherine.  And even those could be picked up at any local store.


We ended one day at a pottery workshop where we saw pottery from the Bronze Age.

We watched people intricately paint pottery.  Then we saw a demonstration of a kick pottery wheel.  They’ve been used for thousands of years to create bowls and vessels for liquid.  Each of the kids were able to try their hand at it.  Kicking the wheel base wasn’t as easy as the man who had used one for forty years made it look.  He helped each of the kids with their bowls and even helped even them out.  Having taken a class at the Archie Bray that uses electricity yet still failing to make a useable bowl, I was in complete awe.

You can tell he’s a professional because he’s wearing a cream colored sweater.

Then we bought a plate with the family pattern on it and tulips running through it.  Tulips represent Allah.  The design of them looks like the shape of the word Allah in Arabic.  I loved the symbolism of the design of God running through the design of the family.  (The workshop has been owned by the same family for three generations.  They have designed their own unique pattern.)

And finally…

We went to see the Whirling Dervishes.  They weren’t actual Dervishes.  Real Dervishes don’t allow spectators to watch them during their worship.  Instead, they train others to do the ceremony.

Two musicians come in and begin the ceremony.  They play a drum and a Turkish instrument.  Then another musicians comes in and chants.  This music can be very soothing and not good for someone still suffering jet lag.

It was just mesmerizing.

Four dancers came out and started the ritual.  There are four stages.  The ritual and their clothing represent rebirth and accepting the teachings of the prophets and Allah.  There’s too much for me to write about here, but I recommend learning about this form of worship.  An article from CNN can be found here.

Then we flew to Ephesus.



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